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Time to Treat Russia as a Partner

Published: September 23, 2008 (Issue # 1410)




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Before heading to Moscow to participate in the recent Valdai Discussion Club, I had the sense that the United States was on the verge of a new era of confrontation with Moscow that could prove far more dangerous and unstable than the previous Cold War. Alliances are more rickety and as the war last month in Georgia proves, communication is not always clear, with tragic results.

Suffice to say that the Valdai meetings did little to alleviate my concerns. The Russian presenters, with the exception of opposition figure Garry Kasparov, were all singing from the same song sheet: We dont want a new era of confrontation, but the choice is yours the United States.

And from the U.S. side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a powerful speech on Sept. 18, concluding, The decision is Russias and Russias alone. Obviously both Moscow and Washington have choices, but I have little confidence U.S. leaders will make the right ones that will enhance the security of the United States and Europe, let alone Russia. What Washington needs right now is not megaphone diplomacy with Moscow, but real diplomacy.

While the United States may deplore the Kremlins decision to invade Georgia and certainly its decision to rapidly and unilaterally recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia was wrong the consensus among Russian politicians and most people is that the Kremlin was right and justified. Although government propaganda on television is partially responsible for this national consensus, it also reflects the countrys catharsis after more than 15 years of perceived relentless geopolitical expansion of the West at Moscows expense.

President Dmitry Medvedev told us that when he spoke with U.S. President George W. Bush on the phone during the hostilities with Georgia, Bush asked him, What do you need this for? Medvedev responded, George, I had no choice, and if you were in my shoes you would have done exactly the same, only more brutally. Medvedev went on to say that if Washington chooses to expand ties with Georgia and arm it, Washington does so at its own risk.

When Medvedev said at Valdai, We will not tolerate any more humiliation, and we are not joking, I believed him. Russian history tells us that we should not underestimate the willingness of Moscow to spill blood to defend the countrys interests as it sees fit. At this moment, the United States needs to focus on that prospect rather than spend so much energy defending past policy.

The Kremlin perceives the Balkan war, NATO expansion, Kosovo independence and missile-defense deployment in Central Europe as having one thing in common the U.S. drive to flaunt its interests and ultimately contain if not weaken Russias geopolitical position. During the administration of President Bill Clinton, Washingtons strategy was to tell Moscow that these pro-U.S. measures were in Russias interests. The Bush administration has harped on Russias supposed obsession with zero-sum thinking, but the net result was the same the United States did what it wanted, and it did not take Russian interests seriously.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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